BBC Watchdog investigates DVLA licence blunder
When was the last time you checked your licence properly? Have you applied for a replacement due to a change of name or address? Have you checked the back of your licence to check that the DVLA haven’t mistakenly added full motorcycle entitlement and removed your car entitlement? Or if you’re a motorcyclist, has your entitlement been removed for no apparent reason?
BBC’s Watchdog (which aired on 27th April 2009) broadcast a feature in which several members of the public pointed out that these things had actually happened to them. “The DVLA know where we live, when we got our licence and most importantly they know what we’re entitled to drive – or do they?”
One of the people featured on the programme, Jon Jones, has been riding motorbikes for over 30 years and has clocked up over 100,000 miles, having passed his motorcycle test in 1981. Nevertheless, when Jon sent his licence back to the DVLA to update his personal details, it was returned to him without his motorcycle entitlement. And when he phoned up to query it, he was advised that they had no record of him ever taking the motorcycle test, and unless he could indeed prove that he had done so, he would have to pass another bike test before entitlement would be granted.
It was a similar story for Jan Shepperd, who sent her licence in to have her surname updated after she married. Her motorcycle entitlement was also stripped, and she too was advised that unless she could prove she had passed the test by producing her pass certificate, she would also have to re-take the bike test. Of course, in order to gain entitlement in the first instance, she would have had to send her original pass certificate to the DVLA.
The DVLA agreed that she had passed her motorcycle test in 1998, but they insisted that she’d never had a licence, because she didn’t apply for it within 2 years of passing the test. Jan said, “I feel disgusted really. I’m saying one thing and they’re saying I’m lying. How do you fight a government agency when I’m just one person on my own?”
Even stranger than the above two cases, Watchdog also revealed that the DVLA doesn’t just lose motorbike licence entitlements from their records, sometimes it even invents them. Oliver Dunn, who relied on his car to run his business noticed that when he sent his licence to the DVLA to update his address, they removed his entitlement to drive a car, and instead replaced it with the category A motorcycle entitlement.
Oliver told Watchdog that, despite never having ever sat on a motorbike, “according to the DVLA he’d had a bike licence for 15 years.”
When Watchdog contacted the DVLA it said: “It is vital that the DVLA protects the safety of road users and pedestrians by ensuring that only people who can prove they have passed the relevant driving test are allowed to drive on our roads.
“Errors are extremely rare – a recent check of 1,000 motorcyclists licence transactions showed that 100 per cent were completed correctly – but we thoroughly investigate all cases reported to us and do everything we can to resolve them.”